Sunday, June 12, 2022

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Can Anyone Hear The Cry?

Can anyone hear the cry of adoptive families?

Adoption is beautiful, it is a blessing, it creates new family's, it brings joy to empty homes and hearts, it gives a needy child a family.......


What many people don't understand about adoption, especially when children are adopted through foster care, is that these children are victims of trauma, of abuse and neglect. Many of them suffer from internal wounds that no one can see. When you bring them into your family, you are taking on that pain and you NEED outside support. Just like your child relies on you to help him find healing, you rely on outside support to hold up your weak arms while you help your child and that is where the ball is often dropped. I don't think it is intentionally. I think the general public simply has no idea what is involved in parenting traumatized children. They don't see how draining it is to do everything in your power to avert a rage. They don't see the pain the siblings endure. They don't see the hot tears coursing down a mothers cheeks when she really, truly doesn't feel able to go another day...and has been pushing through this for months and years.

Recently another adoptive mom asked me what she can do to help and I just looked at her and shrugged my shoulders. She smiled and said, "That is what we always say, isn't it?" 

I think this is part of the problem, we are in so deep and there is so much at stake that we really don't know what we need, or we fear the response if we are vulnerable.

-What we really need someone who is able to come alongside our family and willingly learn what our children need to stay regulated and bonded with us. 

-We need someone who will follow our seemingly crazy rules and be sure our children comply with them because this is the only way our children will feel safe.

-We need people trained in trauma and attachment, people who can take our raging child when we have reached the limit, people who can give us a break without further damaging the already shaky bond between us and our child.

-We need people who aren't afraid to stand their ground and will speak words of truth when a child, because of the pain in his heart, is doing his best to decimate his adoptive family.

-People who understand that our children aren't "bad" they are traumatized, they have brain damage. They need love and acceptance.

-We need people willing to show our children grace for behaviors that may appear appalling.

-We need mentors for our biological children and our adopted children who have strong bonds. Their sibling's trauma creates secondary trauma which can quickly create a traumatized family where healing is hard to find.

-We need someone to say I am going to do ___________ for you. If you ask if there is something we need, chances are we won't be able to come up with a coherent response.

-We need friends who are willing to carry one sided relationships (thanks to those of you who do this for us. You know who you are!)

The quote, "It takes a village to raise a child," is especially true when a child has experienced pain and loss. We, the adoptive parents aren't enough, we simply don't reach around. Many parents feel guilty asking for help because it was their choice to adopt. I struggle for this as well but many, if not most parents had no idea of the battles ahead when they brought their hurting child home. They thought they were enough, only to discover the void in their child's heart was deeper and more vast than they ever thought. 

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Friday, December 1, 2017

Holiday Brain - Living With FASD

The Thanksgiving-Christmas season is not for the faint of heart when your child has FASD. Throw in a birthday just a few days after Christmas and the drama only intensifies.

Yesterday Joseph's brain literally went AWOL. He couldn't function. It was almost like having an 18 month old again but this toddler weighs 80 plus pounds, can run, call names, fling toys with enough force to hurt someone (usually mom) and to make it even scarier, the general public assumes that he is perfectly "normal" and anything he says is taken at face value. Sometimes I wish I could hang a sign around his neck explaining his diagnosis and how it affects him.

Perserveration is a symptom of FASD and currently gifts are Josephs main focus. He loves looking through catalogs which is nice because they keep him happy and occupied for a long time. The downside is that he see's all kinds of things he wants and he has to tell me all about them. Then he keeps asking, "What are you going to get me for Christmas? If you don't get me _________ you can buy it for my birthday. How many more days until my birthday?" And on and on until I tell him, "You may look at the catalog but if you keep begging, I will put it away." He agree's but not a minute later he is back at it. I remind him that there is to be no begging and he sigh's and says, "Sorry mom, I forgot. I will be quiet now." Guess what happens 30 seconds later? Yes, he is back to telling me what he wants. Sometimes I remove the catalog, other times I know he cannot remember from one moment to the next, so I just close my ears.

He eyeballs every box and package that comes in the mail. Asks me where I went shopping and reminds me of everything said store may carry. December is spent thinking of gifts. I guess I can just be thankful that Christmas and his birthday are within the same week. We have one solid month of dysregulation versus two months of it.

Yesterday was particularly rough for him. I have never seen him so spaced. His brain refused to focus for more than a few seconds at a time, not nearly long enough to figure out one math problem, much less do a test like he was supposed to. After an hour of trying different methods to get his brain to function, during which he ran away, screamed at me and slammed doors, I told him he doesn't have to do school work today. Guess what happened? He had a full on meltdown. Trashing his room, throwing things and screaming even louder. He finally fell on his bed, sobbing his heart out. I hate hearing him cry like that because I know it is coming from a place of deep pain and I can't make it better for him. Eventually he was able to play with his Lego's but beyond that he couldn't follow even simple commands.

I know what he needs, a smaller world, but how to do that is the problem because the poor boy already has such a limited existence. If anyone out there has tips on making a small world smaller, I am all ears. He wants to do things, he wants to be helpful but he is unable to realize his limitations which means mom gets the blame. He tells me time and again, "You just want me to have a boring life, you don't let me do anything fun!" I wish I could help him understand that we are helping him enjoy life by providing boundaries but he doesn't have the ability to understand such abstract concepts. 

Last night he had another meltdown just before bedtime. He was doing a chore and it was not going well so I told him to put his pj's on. He pounded and kicked his bedroom walls while screaming how unfair life is. I was thinking of calling Dean to come in and deal with him when he calmed down and crawled into bed. I was sweeping the floor when I heard a little voice calling, "Mom, I want to tell you something." I opened his door and he said, "Sorry I screamed at you, tomorrow will be a better day." I assured him I loved him and all was well. Sadly FASD is getting in the way again and today isn't much better than yesterday. Oh well, it's December so we will hunker down until January!

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Thursday, November 30, 2017

Does A Lack Of Storms = Peace?

Once there was a King who offered a prize to the artist who would paint the best picture of peace. Many artists tried. The King looked at all the pictures, but there were only two he really liked and he had to choose between them.
One picture was of a calm lake. The lake was a perfect mirror, for peaceful towering mountains were all around it. Overhead was a blue sky with white puffy clouds. All who saw this picture thought that it was a perfect picture of peace.
The other picture had mountains, too. But these were rugged and bare. Above was a sky from which rain fell and in which lightening played. Down the side of the mountain tumbled a foaming waterfall. This did not look peaceful at all. But when the King looked, he saw behind the waterfall a tiny bush growing in a crack in the rock. In the bush a mother bird had built her nest. There, in the midst of the rush of angry water, sat the mother bird on her nest in perfect peace.
Which picture do you think won the prize? The King chose the second picture. Do you know why? 
"Because," explained the King, "Peace does not mean to be in a place where there is no noise, trouble or hard work. Peace means to be in the midst of those things and still be calm in your heart. That is the real meaning of peace."
                        - A Gift Of Inspiration

This story got me to thinking and I realized, yet again, that I have it all wrong. I have this mindset that the absence of rage, meltdowns and mental health struggles would create an atmosphere of peace in our home. But in reality it is the calmness in my heart despite these things that really brings peace.

This type of situation has the power to drag you down into depths of despair. It feels like there is no way out. Well, truthfully there is no way out, you are stuck and this can produce fear and panic. When you know that tomorrow will be no better than today, the coming year will not be better than the one just past, and in fact it may well be worse, you develop a sense of hopelessness. 

When you conquer one storm only to have another take it's place time and again, you begin to give up. 

How do you get that peace when all around the tempest is raging... has been raging for years....and will continue to rage for years to come?

First, it is impossible on your own you need JESUS to give you the ultimate peace. Secondly, you need accept that this is the path God has called you too and thirdly, you need to hand it over to God time and again. Remember it isn't the absence of the storm that brings peace but having a place of refuge and trusting that if God has brought you to it, He will bring you through it.

I think I need to print this story out and hang it on my refrigerator so I have a visual reminder that peace isn't the absence of storms, but a feeling of peace and trust within the heart.

Monday, November 27, 2017

Striving For Success - Living With FASD

The best outcome for individuals with Fetal Alcohol comes from making sure they can. Ask yourself, "Am I setting them up for success or failure?" Don't put them in a situation you know isn't going to turn out well. - Jeff Noble

Jeff is spot on with this advice. Time and again when I talk with parents who have a child with FASD they say, "But I want my child to be able to have fun in life. It isn't fair if he can't go out with his friends or have his own pocket money." Parents of younger children say, "It isn't fair if my child can't have toys in his room and no media time when his siblings can." First, FASD isn't fair to anyone. Not to the individual affected, not to the parents, not to the siblings. It is best for everyone if you can simply stop trying to be fair. Try to be understanding and empathetic instead. You may be surprised at the outcome.

I will admit that it is hard to give up the hopes and dreams you had for your child. But just because your child has FASD doesn't mean you can't dream at all, it may simply mean changing your dreams. Helping your child succeed while he is young will set the stage for when he is older, plus it will greatly improve your relationship with him/her. 

If your child isn't doing well at school, find out what you can do to support him. Many times individuals with FASD can succeed if given the right supports. Joseph wasn't doing well in a regular classroom at school. He was distracted and distracted others. The field trips and parties were too stimulating for him causing him to meltdown. So we tried one on one with him. He was in a room with his own teacher to guide and direct him. When he still struggled, we revamped his curriculum, when that didn't seem to solve the problem, we decided to home school. Guess what? He is doing amazingly well! He isn't doing 4th grade work, but he is doing a full work load in a lower grade and succeeding. Succeeding is the word we are focusing on. Not grade level work, not working in a classroom, but succeeding in what he is able to do.

Joseph can't handle crowds, or playing with a group of children. He gets overstimulated which will inevitably result in a meltdown. If he plays by himself or with one other child, he has fun without the meltdowns. Success! 

Joseph has a few chores which including helping clear the table, drying the cups and silverware and sometimes sweeping the kitchen floor. These are repetitious tasks and I am right there to help him out if he forgets how to do something. He does an excellent job with these chores. He puts the silver ware neatly in the door and makes sure the cups are dry and stacked in the cupboard. Sweeping the floor is a bit of a challenge but he is learning. I find if I teach him to do a job and make sure to teach him well, he can succeed and feel good about himself. 

Sometimes parenting a child with FASD can begin to feel hopeless. The child cannot seem to remember anything and is constantly acting out leaving you and him feeling like a failure. I suggest you mentally view him as several years younger than his chronological age and parent him accordingly. Give him chores, or jobs as Joseph calls them, that are within his "new age range." Keep your expectations within that range and you will find your child can succeed!

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Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Even If

I have had a jumble of thoughts whirling through my brain these past few days, along with a need to write a blog post but nothing came out right. It always sounded whiny or fake, two things I cannot abide! I wrote and deleted numerous posts, everything from Thanksgiving, to memories of Braden since it has been 3 years since he had his first home visit and 2 years since we made "The Visit" to TAP. None of it sounded right. A few moments ago a post with this song popped up and I was like, "That song is just what I have been trying to say without success!"


They say sometimes you win some
Sometimes you lose some.
And right now, right now, I'm losing bad
I've stood on this stage night after night
Reminding the broken it'll be alright
But right now, right now I just can't

It's easy to sing
When there's nothing to bring me down
But what will I say 
When I'm held to the flame
Like I am right now

I know Your able and I know You can
Save through the fire with Your mighty hand
But even if You don't
My hope is in You alone

They say it only takes a little faith 
To move a mountain
Well good thing
A little faith, is all I have right now
But God, when You choose
To leave mountains unmoveable
Oh give me the strength to be able to sing
It is well with my soul

I know Your able and I know You can
Save through.......

-Mercy Me

This song perfectly portrays our current circumstances. Life is hard, so very hard and sometimes we ask, "Why Lord?" But underneath it all, we can say, "It is well with my soul," and in the end that is all that matters.
It is well even though Braden is no longer ours and as time moves on and we heal, the what if's and if only's are right there to torment me.

It is well even though FASD may affect more children in our family than we ever dreamed.

It is well even though our teen age son struggle's with the particular battle he has to fight, the battle of traumatized siblings.

It is well even though there are days when the sun refuses to shine and the clouds of pain and sorrow hang heavy over our home.

It is well because of JESUS! It is well because we know that he has a plan for everything that comes our way even when we cannot fathom why we have to continue wading through tough situations.

Even if God doesn't provide the relief we are asking for, we know he will provide the strength to go one more step, one more moment, one more day.

Even if our children make choices that hurt themselves and others when we yearn to provide for them, God knows we tried, and we know God loves them more than we ever could.

Even if we feel forsaken on every side due to the trauma that our family has endured, God will provide. He has never failed us yet. When life seems too hard, He reminds us of  reasons to live, to keep on keeping on.


Friday, November 17, 2017

All Or None - Finding The Unique Balance In Trust


Trust is a big issue in our house. The majority of us have trust issues, myself included. A baby is born primed to build on the trust foundation that has already begun in the womb. However when a baby doesn't receive the nurture he needs, he doesn't feel safe and the trust pattern doesn't develop. This pattern of trust can be disrupted by many things, maternal distress, lack of nurture, if baby is a preemie or needs extensive medical procedures and/or has unabated pain. In my post, Anxiety - The Alarm Of Being Separated I wrote that it isn't necessarily the type/severity of a situation that raises alarm but how the child perceives it. If a child feels there is no way out, if he has no one to look out for him, he will be a fearful child. In reality he may have loving parents but in his mind he is all alone. This is why it is so important to not only practice attachment parenting but to make sure your child is feeling loved and secure. Looking back, that is where we messed up. We practiced TBRI but due to some of our children's unique needs, they weren't getting the message and their attachment struggles continued unabated. 

Joseph trusts everyone and Kiana trusts no one, while I only trust those who have proved themselves trustworthy. I can understand  both of my children's needs, although I can certainly relate to Kiana much more than Joseph in this area. Due to his FASD, Joseph has no sense of stranger danger, thus everyone is his friend. He cannot read body language which would tip most people off as to whether someone is a friend or foe.

Kiana spent her early months feeling fearful and insecure. When she came to us, she was pretty much on target developmentally and not knowing anything of attachment disorders we assumed all was well. She presented well and I think she would have been okay if we hadn't brought two more baby's into our home. Having three attachment challenged baby's and no knowledge of attachment is a recipe for disaster! But like so many other parents, we meant well. We thought food and love was all they needed to thrive. In hindsight I should have been wearing each of the children in a sling, bottle feeding them, massaging them and giving each one my undivided attention. I didn't, not least because it was impossible and so we exacerbated the problem.

Now I have one child who needs to be watched every moment in public because he will go with anyone. He will talk to anyone and tell them anything they wish to know. He has no sense of what is an appropriate conversation. You ask him a question and he will tell you what he thinks you want to hear. Scary stuff in this world where no one is exempt from being accused of abusing their children. Kiana on the other hand is too scared to trust Dean or I for the love and nurture she needs so she will seek it out from other people. When we go away she has no qualms about asking the hostess for things. She will cuddle up to people, look them in the eye and act as though she totally adores them. In reality she is seeking love and nurture but is too scared to get it from her parents so she seeks it from other people with whom she doesn't have to maintain an ongoing relationship. 

This means my children look like the most outgoing loving children while their parents present as overbearing and strict. This presentation makes people even more "concerned" about our children which makes them dote on them all the more. 

After a recent situation I called Kiana out on her actions. By the way, she was totally unaware why she acts as she does. I figured at 10 years of age and because she truly wants to trust us but doesn't dare, perhaps a brief lesson on attachment, such as how it occurs and what it looks like in an older child was in order. I told her what had happened - she had soaked up love from someone else and as a result was being, lets just use the word challenging! Then explained that when a child gets love from other people he doesn't need to get it from his parents. That is okay for a well attached child but devastating for a child who is scared of trust. She understood that so I asked how she thinks __________ would have reacted if she would have acted in such a manner towards them. She looked at me and said, "____________ would have given me consequences!" I almost laughed because while I don't think she would have been given a consequence, she would have been told to go play, which would have felt like one. Poor girl, no child should have an  attachment disorder and brain inflammation! If I am honest, there are days I feel no parent should have to deal with such a situation either!

We have had some late night's with Kiana this week. She is fearful and dreams up ways to keep herself safe. The trouble is her "backup" makes her uneasy so she acts out and I get the brunt of her anxiety. Last night I told her about the times when I struggled with anxiety and depression and had feelings and fears similar to what she is experiencing. She wondered how I got better and Dean said, "Mom had to talk and use true words." One of Kiana's coping mechanisms is to tell us stories that are close to the truth but still don't reveal her deep fears and emotions. She wasn't sure about that because using true words means she is giving us a level of trust which makes her very uncomfortable. You know I never dreamed I would be thankful for those months of anxiety and depression, they were awful but now I can look back and pull out bits and pieces and they help Kiana. Please pray for Kiana, she is in a vulnerable place right now, Dean and I covet your prayers as well. 

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